§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £191,950, to complete the sum for Public Education in Ireland.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
Sir, I did expect that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland would have made a statement to the Committee, and that the usual annual Report would have been issued ere this. But as that Report has not been laid on the table, I must, of necessity, rely on the facts and figures of previous Reports in support of the appeal which I now have to make in behalf of one of the most useful and important bodies of men in Ireland, the teachers of the national system of education. I can assure you, Sir, that the condition of the national teachers has excited the deepest sympathy of the Irish Members — of Members not only from all parts of Ireland, but of all parties. I am personally aware, from having my name placed on the Paper in connection with this question, that many hon. Friends of mine, not here at present, watched the progress of the Estimates with the greatest anxiety, to see when this Vote would come on; and being compelled to leave for home, they authorized me to speak in their name in behalf of the object I have in view. Happily, Sir, the question of the condition of the teachers is one which does not involve or provoke the least controversy or dispute; it does not, above all, involve any question as to the principle on which the system is based. Hon. Gentlemen who hold the most extreme views on the two opposite systems—that of mixed and that of denominational education — join harmoniously in the desire to improve the education given, whatever may be its principle, and thus render it as advantageous as possible to 728 the country. Sir, whatever the educational system may be — be it mixed or be it denominational — it is impossible that it can be successful in its objects if the teaching staff be not thoroughly efficient, and therefore thoroughly contented. The working of any system does not depend so much upon its administration, or on its principal officials, however able the one or however intelligent and zealous the other may be; its main success depends upon its teaching staff — the rank and file of its organization. Then the question directly comes, in what condition do we find the national teachers of Ireland? In what state is that vast army of progress on which depends the teaching and improvement of the youth of the Irish nation? I regret to say that that condition is miserable in the extreme, such as to excite the deepest compassion in the minds of those who are familiar with it, and even to inspire no little alarm for the consequences to which, if not altered for the better, it must inevitably lead. The condition of teachers of the youth of Ireland may be summed up in a few simple words—they are badly paid, badly clad, badly housed, badly fed, with no comfort in the present, and no prospect for the future. That is their position at this moment; that has been their position for many years. And, Sir, it is with the object of improving that condition, that now, at this late period of the Session, I bring their case before the House of Commons. I do so not so much for their sake— though no one feels their miserable plight more keenly than I do—I do it mainly on national grounds, and for the benefit of the people for whom this system of education was intended. In order to understand their position at the present moment, I go back a little, and show what was the notion formed some four-and-thirty years since as to what ought to be the remuneration of the teacher under the National Board. In the year 1835 the Commissioners were of opinion that the minimum salary of the teacher ought to be £30 a year, with free apartments. Remember, that was their idea some four - and - thirty years since — when provisions were cheaper, when every necessary of life was cheaper than at the present day— that £30 a year with free apartments, was the lowest provision that should be made for the instructor of youth. The 729 object of the Commissioners was a wise one — to ensure the respectability and comfort of the teacher—to raise him in the estimation not only of his pupils, but their parents—to give him influence in the circle in which he moved — and, above all, to render him contented with his position, and on that account more efficient in the discharge of his duty. Here is an extract from what was written in 1835 by the guardians of a then infant institution—It is only through such persons that we can hope to render the national system successful in improving the general condition of the people. It is not, however, merely through the schools committed to their charge that the beneficial effects of their influence would he felt. Living in friendly habits with the people; not greatly elevated above them, but so provided for as to be able to maintain a respectable station; trained to good habits; identified in interest with the State, and therefore anxious to promote a spirit of obedience to lawful authority, we are confident that they would prove a body of the utmost value and importance in promoting civilization and peace.Let us now see in what manner this idea has been realized. In the year 1867, the remuneration of the teacher was as I shall state. The average salary of the ordinary national school teachers of Ireland, excluding model school teachers, work mistresses, and paid monitors, was as follows:—From the State a little over £26 per annum, and from all other school sources a little under £7, making a grand total of £33 a year, or 12s. 8d. a week. This may be called the maximum average. But there is something much worse. There were then about 5,000 national teachers, whose income from all sources was at the rate of 8s. 5d. a week. Take the two sums, and strike an average, and what have we as the average salary of the teachers of the youth of Ireland? Something more than 10s. a week, or less than Is. 8d. a day. 10s. a week and no free apartments—no house—no cottage—no accommodation of any kind. This matter of house accommodation involves a very great grievance, to which special notice ought to be directed. As a rule, there is no house attached to the national schools, and the teacher has to find such accommodation as the district and his means can furnish him; thus he has to rent a house or apartments at a terrible sacrifice of his scanty means, or he has to put up with the most miserable accommodation in a peasant's 730 cabin, much to his own discomfort, and to the loss of that influence which a person in his position and holding his office ought to exercise. We know how wretched is the accommodation in the cabins of the Irish peasantry—two rooms at most, and one of those the sleeping chamber of the entire family. And here, with the entire family, the poor teacher is often found, sharing in their wretched accommodation. It frequently happens that the teacher has to walk two or three miles to and from his school every day in the week. I myself know instances where the distance each way is four miles, five miles, six miles, and even seven miles. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derry (Mr. Serjeant Dowse) told me of a case in his part of the country where a teacher walked six miles to his school and six miles from it. An hon. Friend near me the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan), has just informed me of an exactly similar case. My hon. Friend the Member for my own county (Mr. Downing) has a similar one to tell; and I know of a still stronger one—that of a teacher who belongs to the city of Cork, from which he walks every morning to the national school of Cloghroe, a distance of seven miles, and to which he returns every evening. Only imagine, fourteen miles a day, almost sufficient labour of itself! But what a preparation for his important duties in the morning; what a fearful addition to the wearying drudgery of the day! Suppose an unfortunate teacher drenched to the skin during his walk of two or three miles, and in what humour can he be for undertaking his onerous duties to his pupils? Now, Sir, not only do I desire to see the teacher properly paid and properly housed, but I am most anxious that, at least in rural districts, he should have a garden, say of an acre in extent; and I am anxious for this arrangement for several reasons. Ours is an agricultural country; and, in my judgment, elementary teaching of the great industry of the country is a matter of primary and even essential importance. I would have this garden not only for the exercise and recreation of the teacher, and for the supply of necessary vegetables, but for the teaching of his pupils the rudimentary principles of agriculture. A house and garden in every rural parish might be had at a cost of from 731 £100 and £120; and I am strongly of opinion no more useful outlay could be made for the practical advantage of Ireland. Then, Sir, we have the teachers of the youth of the Irish nation in this miserable plight, without house accommodation, such as was originally contemplated, and with a pittance in many instances little above the ordinary wages of an agricultural labourer, and in many instances below what the man receives who merely toils with the spade or the shovel. Surely such a state of things ought not to be allowed to endure a year longer. Its toleration is cruel to the individual, injurious to the community, and fatal to the system. As a simple fact, and in no spirit of exaggeration, I assert that there is no people in Europe who exceed the Irish in their love of learning, and in their respect for the possessor of knowledge. But how is it possible that this feeling can withstand the influence of poverty and misery, when associated with this learning and knowledge, in the person of a badly clad and badly fed national teacher? Raised above the people intellectually, he is degraded below them socially by his poverty and privation. On this shamefully inadequate income he has to keep up an appearance of decency becoming his position as a teacher of youth; but there are not a few instances in which the dress of the unhappy man is an object of pity or of ridicule. It may be thought that the amount supplied from local or voluntary sources is smaller than it should be. But I warn the Government on this head. The amount from all local sources, whether in the shape of endowment or school fees, was £52,000 in 1867. Possibly it was somewhat higher than this in 1868. I warn my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department against straining these voluntary resources, especially the school fees, and for a very obvious reason. If you do so, you run the chance of diminishing the attendance of children whose parents are very poor. As it is, the attendance is not satisfactory, and requires to be explained. There were on the roll, in 1867, some 900,000 pupils; but of this number only about 330,000 were in actual daily attendance — little more than 35 per cent, or one-third of the whole. If you compel the children in the poorer districts to pay even the smallest sum, 732 you risk this attendance, small as it undoubtedly is. In the schools of the Christian Brothers in my city the attendance is about 80 or 85 per cent, while in the national schools it is but 35. This is a very serious matter, and requires caution in its treatment. What will hon. Gentlemen think when I tell them that it frequently happens that the teacher is asked, is even compelled, to pay the rent of the school-house? In the Report, I believe, of 1867, there are 294 cases of this kind admitted. The average payment is a little over £2; and I have heard of an instance of so much as £6 a year being paid by a teacher in the shape of rent; this was for the school at O'Brien's Bridge, county Clare. Teachers are likewise compelled, in many instances, to provide furniture and apparatus for their schools out of their wretched salaries. Of course, this is not the rule but the exception; still such a state of things should never be suffered to exist. There is then another, and, in my mind, a very serious grievance, which demands redress. I refer to the arbitrary power of removal or dismissal on the part of the managers. I know this power is exercised on the whole with clemency and prudence—nay, with consideration and generosity; but I have heard of instances in which it has been exercised harshly and capriciously. As matters now stand the manager can dismiss the teacher at a moment's notice. I had almost said with a moment's notice. I know of cases where teachers have been re-placed without notice; for instance, of a teacher coming to his school on the Monday morning and finding his successor in his place. I have known this happen to female as well as male teachers. Now, what I would suggest would be that fair notice of the cause of complaint should be given to the teacher, and that an investigation should be held, so that an end might be put to arbitrary dismissal—in other words, the power of flinging a teacher helpless and destitute on the world. And as to a matter of the very last importance — there should be some provision for the teacher in his old. age. According to the existing rules, this just principle is admitted, but is most inadequately carried out. Suppose a teacher has spent twenty-four years in the service of the Board, is broken down through old age and infirmity, and is 733 compelled to give up his occupation, the Commissioners may afford him a gratuity at the rate of a month's pay for every year, or a total of two years' pay for twenty-four years' service. Now a man may be unfit for work, especially the work of teaching and conducting a school, but he may linger on for ten years, or even longer; and after this pittance is exhausted, what resource has he but the charity of his friends or the refuge of the workhouse? And, as one of the Board's Inspectors remarks, the workhouse is a poor prospect for any man. It is a cheerless prospect for a man who has led a life of hard privation; and this is the life which, the great body of the national teachers of Ireland have hitherto led. What the teachers justly demand is a pension, to be obtained after fair service to the public. Now, the giving of this pension would not involve any serious cost. With £9,000, in addition to the sum granted annually in the shape of retiring gratuities — a sum equal to £4,500 —pensions might be provided for deserving teachers. The certainty of having this provision in old age or infirmity would be of enormous service to the system as well as to individuals. It is true all are not paid in the miserable manner to which I have referred; but those who are better circumstanced are but a small minority. About 400 have the advantage of good service salaries, and some enjoy a higher average than the £33, which is the average of the salary of the ordinary teacher; but the average pay of the great body of classed teachers—now about 8,500 — is little more than 10s. a week, and that is scandalously insufficient. It drags down the unhappy man, whose mind should be free from sordid care, by the heavy pressure of daily and hourly want;. Let us now see how this state of things operates. It drives a certain class from the public service, and it renders the rest discontented. The ambitious are ever on the look out for a change, to be had in other occupations, or in emigration to the States or our own colonies. But bear in mind that the most efficient leave—those whom the State has trained at great cost—those whose retirement is a grievous loss to the education of the country. This annual desertion, equal to 11 per cent, is a loss which no amount of false economy can compensate for. 734 Better to pay these men well, and secure to them the certainty of pensions in their declining years, than to train them at great cost and trouble, and lose them afterwards when they are trained and serviceable. This is a proposition which I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who can appreciate its force. This evil strikes at the very life of the system, robs the State of its best servants, and enormously deteriorates the character of the general education of the country. I am happy to say none have been more earnest in their sympathy, or more urgent in their remonstrances, than the officers of the Board, its head Inspectors and district Inspectors. To fortify my statement, it is absolutely necessary that I should quote a few passages from the Reports of gentlemen who speak with such authority. Now, Sir, I will bring down the proof to the present hour, even to this month of July, to show how this evil is practically working. At a meeting of the Ballina Board of Guardians, held on the 5th of July, 1869, the following letter was received from the district Inspector, who had been asked to recommend a competent teacher, the guardians being willing to give an increased scale of remuneration:—Francis Street, Ballina, 2nd July, 1869.Sir,—Replying to your letter of the 1st instant, in which, on the part of the Guardians of the Ballina Poor Law Union, you request me to recommend a classed male teacher for the vacant workhouse school, I regret to be under the necessity of informing you that, so far as I am aware, no such teacher is to be had in my district. Very many schools are closed for want of teachers, and many more are in charge of unclassed, or in other words incompetent teachers. I beg to suggest that you should advertise in other than local newspapers.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,JOHN E. WOOD, District Inspector, N.S.The Tyrawley Herald of the 8th remarks—It is not difficult to account for this state of things. The teacher's profession has ceased to be attractive to any considerable number of the population. Under the National Board it no longer holds out an inducement to persons of information and talents in any walk of life to enter it. The truth is, the rewards it offers are scarcely superior to those lying before the day labourer, while the toil is as great, and the anxiety and the wear and tear bear no comparison. In a pecuniary point of view the position of the mechanic is far superior to that of the national schoolmaster.The evil fruit of this miserable payment to the most important of your public 735 servants — the teachers of the youth of a nation — these who are powerful for good, and could be potent for mischief— is manifold desertion, loss, inferior teaching, and deep-seated, discontent. As a body, the national teachers of Ireland, men and women, are entitled to the greatest admiration; for, notwithstanding their temptations, the temptations of poverty and discontent, they are the advocates of law and order, and the promoters of ideas of industry, and progress, and morality. The Commissioners, who appreciate the importance of the rank and file being contented, desire to pay them well, and are anxious that Parliament should enable them to do so. This is what I desire of Parliament. It is true a Royal Commission is sitting in Dublin; but that does not lessen or take away the duty of the representatives of the Irish people to say what they know to be right, and just, and wise, in a matter of grave public moment. This is a question which does not brook delay—it cannot with safety be delayed a year longer. I know that it is too late to do anything practical this year; but I call on the Government to be prepared to deal with this one branch of the question in their Estimates next year. I am far from saying that the officers of the Board are overpaid. Far from it. I believe the salary of the Resident Commissioner — one of the most accomplished men in Europe —to be unequal to his position. Neither are the Inspectors overpaid; but the teachers are badly paid out of all proportion. There are two gatekeepers in Marlborough Street, in Dublin, paid 16s. 6d. a week each. They only open a mere gate of timber or iron; but the teacher, who opens the door of the human mind to the light of knowledge, would esteem himself happy had he been paid at the same rate. Sir, I make my appeal to Parliament, not merely in the name and on behalf of some 12,000 teachers, the very life of the educational system of my country, but in the name of the best interests of that country, which may be retarded or promoted according to the character of its education, and the efficiency and success of its teachers.
§ MR. SYNAN
observed that the grievances of the teachers referred to by his hon. Friend were four-fold. They complained, first, of their salaries, next, that 736 they had no residences, thirdly, that they had no pensions or superannuation allowances, and fourthly, that the managers had an arbitrary power. This latter point would require delicate handling; but it could not be doubted that the teachers were miserably paid. About 3,000 of those teachers, men and women, were paid on an average £18 a year each, which was supplemented by school fees amounting to £4, so that their entire remuneration was £22 a year, out of which many of them had to support families. The salaries received by the teachers were not higher than the wages of common labourers, and it was this that was striking at the root of the system; for the number of teachers fell off so largely in 1862 that £300,000, which had been expended in training them, was lost to the State. Of course, people in England who dealt with the Consolidated Fund spoke of the enormous sum voted for Irish education; but let it be remembered that a Bill had just passed by means of which the Consolidated Fund would be relieved of the payment of £70,000 a year for the Regium Donum and the grant to Maynooth. He would suggest that this money, gained by the Treasury at the expense of Ireland, should be applied in supplementing the salaries of Irish teachers and raising them, as it would do, from £33 to £50 a year, an advance which would satisfy the teachers themselves. The want of residences compelled teachers to walk six or seven miles to school, and the same distance back; and it ought to be made obligatory in lay patrons of non-vested schools to provide residences as a condition of their receiving assistance. But nearly all the schools were in the hands of clerical managers, who had not houses for themselves, and could not be expected to provide them for teachers. If the Government would aid the clerical patrons, he believed the people would do their part in remedying the grievance. The absence of any provision for superannuation involved melancholy results. A gratuity equal to a year's salary was given for every twelve years' service. In his own county a teacher was invalided and received £35; he recovered, and the Commissioners, when asked to put him at the head of a school, declined to do so unless he would re-fund the gratuity. The man was almost a fit subject for a work- 737 house, and might as well have been asked to pay the National Debt. If the Government would give £70,000 to supplement the salaries, he believed the people would tax themselves to provide superannuation allowances. As to the power of dismissal, nearly all these schools were in the hands of clerical managers, who had popularized the system in the country, and, if they were arrayed against the system, by being deprived of the power of dismissal, that would prevent the system being established. If, however, the other grievance were remedied, he believed this of dismissal, which was a sentimental one, would not occasion any serious difficulty, because cases of dismissal were not of frequent occurrence.
§ SIR FREDERICK W. HEYGATE
said, he had pleasure in confirming what the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) had said, and in supporting the appeal he had made on behalf of a deserving class of men. What they had to consider was whether the payment of the teachers was in proportion to the payment of all other classes. Irish Members must have been struck with the numbers of applications made to them for their patronage on behalf of Irish teachers who wished to leave the duties for which they had been trained for the excise, the customs, or the constabulary. During the short time the late Government was in power he was overwhelmed with such applications. All this indicated how inadequate the payments of the teachers were. Looking at the increased cost of living, the advanced pay of the constabulary, and the contiguity of Ireland to this country, there was no doubt that great injustice was done to the teachers. It was true that the Consolidated Fund had been relieved of £80,000 or perhaps nearly £100,000 a year, and it would simply be doing justice to a deserving class, and not merely making a gift to Ireland, to apply the money in raising these salaries. Wet or dry they had to go, and their labour was unceasing. He thought, therefore, that the least they could, do was to increase their small pittance and give them a fair and equitable scale of salary. Again, they were almost the only class of public servants in Ireland who were not entitled to superannuation allowances. He trusted that the Government would remember that England and Ireland were not separated 738 now as they used to be; that they would bear in mind that those in one country were perfectly aware of the rates of payment made in the other, and that they would take this case into consideration. If nothing were done, he should himself next Session bring forward a Motion on the subject.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he wished to add that a great source of complaint was the fact that the payments were made every three months instead of every month, the adoption of that course frequently leading to serious embarrassment.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) began his statement by something like a complaint that he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) had not made a general statement in respect to the present condition of Irish education. [Mr. MAGUIRE: No, no !] No change had taken place that year in the working of that system. The whole system of primary education in Ireland was under inquiry by a Royal Commission. He acknowledged that both the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion had done real service, not only to the national school teachers and national school system of Ireland, but to the people of that country generally. He was quite prepared to admit that the national school teachers of Ireland were underpaid. Considering the vast influence these men exercised—all the greater on account of the absence from many parts of Ireland of men of education—considering the amount of good they did, and considering the amount of evil they could and he was afraid sometimes did do, it was of enormous importance that the House should take care these men had reason to be contented with their position, and well-affected towards that which was best for the interests of the country. Having, however, admitted that these men were not paid as they ought to be, he felt bound to point out one peculiarity in their position and in the position of the system of national education in Ireland which it was impossible to overlook in considering this question, and that was the inadequate amount derived in Ireland from local support and local contributions. He knew that Ireland was a poor country, and he was not one of those who felt disposed to exact from Ireland more than the country was capa- 739 ble of performing, but still the contrast between the local support given to education in Ireland and in the other parts of Great Britain was in itself sufficient to excite the deepest regret. In this country of the whole amount of the emoluments of the school teachers two thirds were contributed from local sources, the State furnishing only one-third. In Ireland, however, the support of the school teachers was almost entirely defrayed by the State—the whole amount of local subscriptions not rising above some £12,000 a year, and the whole amount of the school pence not exceeding £45,000 a year. The number of pounds subscribed in Ireland towards this great object did not much exceed the number of masters required to support it. Having said that, with the hope that the local proprietors might be induced to contribute more largely, he was quite prepared to admit that the amount of contributions furnished by the State had not reached its full extent. The allusion made by his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) to the Irish Church Bill was not the first as it probably would not be the last of its kind. He was not prepared to deny the soundness of the plea for liberality to the national school teachers of Ireland, and there was no doubt that the subject was one for future consideration. But he would remind the Committee that the national schools of Ireland were not schools of the State. Schools like these, the teachers of which were locally governed, locally appointed, and locally dismissed, had strong claims upon that local support which was so willingly extended in the case of the schools in this country. Having, however, admitted the claim of these teachers to increased support, both from local sources and from the State, respecting not only their salaries but the improvement of their residences, it only remained for him to point out that at that moment nothing could be done by the Government beyond recognizing the necessity of improvement. His hon. Friend had said he did not know whether the Royal Commissioners would investigate that particular branch of the subject. All he could say was that if they did not they would, in his opinion, fail in duly performing their duty. But in any case the Government would deem it their duty, whether assisted by the Commission or 740 not, to look closely into the matter, and he earnestly trusted that no great length of time would elapse before some means were devised for improving the condition of this important and valuable class of men.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that they could never expect to get teachers of a high character as long as the business of teaching was made a sort of refuge for the destitute.
§ DR. BALL
said, he thought that, as a Royal Commission composed of men of great weight and authority had been appointed to investigate not only the abstract question of the mode of national education to be adopted, but the position of the teachers, it was premature to discuss their claims at present. He, for one, was not disposed to take for certain statements made with respect to that position, even when made in speeches in that House, and it was, in his opinion, far preferable that the Government should defer coming to any conclusion on the subject until they had the facts of the case before them in a shape which would scarcely admit of doubt. It was impossible that the whole question should not engage their attention after the Report of the Commission had been received. If the Commission had not been issued he should, probably, support the view taken by those who contended that the pay of the teachers should be raised.
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, he thought the statement of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland was satisfactory, so far as the inadequacy of the pay of the teachers was concerned; but, when he stated that the local contributions in aid of the national school system were very inadequate, he seemed to forget that that system was one which the Irish people disapproved. It followed almost as a corollary from that fact that the Government had to support it themselves.
§ MR. SHERLOCK
said, the simple fact that there were 5,000 teachers in Ireland receiving only 8s. 6d. a week in the shape of remuneration, or less than the wages of an unskilled labourer, was quite sufficient to justify the hon. Member (Mr. Maguire) in calling the attention of the House to the subject.
§ MR. DOWNING
said, he could fully corroborate the statements of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), as to the position in which the national school 741 teachers in Ireland were placed. There was no question, he would add, on which the Irish Members were so fully agreed as the necessity of bettering that position. He was glad to hear from the Chief Secretary for Ireland the admission that the school teachers were illpaid, and that their case would be inquired into.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, if his right hon. Friend and Colleague (Dr. Ball) had as much experience in the House as many of the hon. Gentlemen who had now addressed it, he would know how vain it was to protest against the discussion of any subject because it had been committed to a Royal Commission. He agreed it might be better to wait for their Report. At the same time he would not object to the proposal of the hon. Member for Cork, provided the masters were well-conducted and qualified for their situations; but it should not be forgotten, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had admitted, that some of them had acted most discreditably. His chief object in rising was to observe upon the marked difference between the debate that evening and those that had been held in former years, when the discussion was not as to a few shillings more or less to a good schoolmaster, but upon the principles of the education which was supported by the grant given by this House. On this night all appeared to agree, as on a late more important and, he would add, more unfortunate occasion. Nevertheless, he felt it his duty to interrupt that unanimity of opinion, so far as to express the hope which he had never failed to express when that Estimate had been brought forward; and he trusted that the Royal Commission would recommend that the Protestant laymen and clergymen of Ireland should have assistance in teaching on those principles which they considered the only sound and safe foundation for any useful national instruction. He would not hesitate to state his opinion that the Holy Scriptures alone were that sound basis. The exclusion of them by that House had been the cause of that limited local subscription to education which the right hon. Gentleman had truly said existed in Ireland. Such was not the case in the Church Education Society, where the Scriptures were taught; it was that want that had made 742 our national system so defective and, while he admitted the display of great numbers on the list, rendered the benefits derived by those numbers very limited. Holy Scriptures were admitted by our greatest public men to be all important for sound teaching, and he again hoped the Royal Commission would recommend a greater support and encouragement to that system the most becoming a Christian legislation. If so, he should not object to see some of the large sums now at the disposal of the House devoted to this object.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that the Report of the Commission would embrace a very wide subject, of which the payment of teachers formed only a part; and while the general question of Irish education might be postponed for a time, the point now under discussion must be settled at once. With reference to the statement that the local contributions had been very small, it ought not to be forgotten that the Catholics had built many of the schools, and thus furnished a gigantic contribution to the gross amount raised. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman expressed himself quite satisfied with the statement of the Chief Secretary.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £530, to complete the sum for the Education Commissioners' Office (Ireland).
(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £18,196, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1870, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he wished to call attention to the enormous sum of £23,246 required to pay the salaries of the Officers of the Board of Works in Ireland, and the imperfect state in which the accounts must be kept, notwithstanding the expenditure of £5,624 per annum on the Accountant's branch alone, proved, amongst other things, by the fact that a Return for the expenditure on the small Department of the Sea Fisheries was not furnished for a fortnight after it was ordered by the House, and the non-compliance with the provisions of the Act 5 & 6 Vic., c. 106, s. 112, which direct account of receipts and expenditure in 743 each, year to be furnished with the Annual Report on the Fisheries to the Lord Lieutenant. He could point out certain discrepancies and inaccuracies in the accounts of the Irish Board of Works, in one item of which there was a mistake of £27,000; there was also great waste of public money for the salaries and expenses of that Department. Although there was little or no work for a solicitor, the Board charged £1,500 per annum for a solicitor and £400 for his clerks, while he (Mr. Blake) believed that any attorney in Dublin would be glad to perform all the work that had to be done for £200 a year. In the architect's branch there was now very little to be done beyond the erection of lunatic asylums, but the charge was £800 a year for an architect, and £300 for an assistant architect and draftsman. There was also £600 a year for an engineer and £300 for an assistant; but their work was almost confined to the erection of fishery weirs and harbours—the work of the Board in reference to arterial drainage being now performed by other bodies—and he knew from his own experience that the work was very inadequately performed. People who called at the office of the Board were treated with the greatest hauteur. Another instance of the extravagant management of the Board was connected with the late visit to Ireland of the Prince of Wales. On the occasion of the Prince's investiture with the order of St. Patrick, £6,400 was expended in temporarily fitting up St. Patrick's Cathedral for the ceremony, but of that large sum the amount returned for materials afterwards sold was only £250. In conclusion, he contended that £20,000 of that Vote might be easily saved, and the work of the Department more satisfactorily performed. The hon. Member then moved that the Vote be reduced by £3,587, being the salaries of the chairman, commissioner, the accountant, and the chief book-keeper.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £ 14,609, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1870, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland."—(Mr. Blake.)
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he concurred generally in what had fallen from his 744 hon. Friend (Mr. Blake), except as to the alleged want of courtesy on the part of the officials of the Board. He had himself last Session expressed his objection to the government of Ireland being placed in the hands of irresponsible Boards, and had called attention to certain advances made by the Irish Board of Works upon insufficient security. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer took the matter into consideration, and was obliged to admit that the security on which the money had been lent was totally inadequate to pay either principal or interest. He was anxious not to trespass further on the time of the Committee than was absolutely necessary to show that the Government ought not to trust any further business to the Commissioners of Public Works, considering what had happened since the original formation of that Board. It must be recollected that though there was some communication between the Treasury and the Board of Works, there was no appeal from the latter. The Board of Works had been twice brought under the notice of Parliament—once upon a Motion by Lord Monteagle in the House of Lords, and a second time before a Committee of the House of Commons, of which he had the honour to be Chairman. It appeared when the matter was brought before the House of Lords that the Board of Works could give no satisfactory account of the arterial drainage which had been executed by their officers. They had themselves made the plans and drawn up the estimates, and all the works had been executed by their own officers. In most cases they had to ask for an additional sum of money very nearly equal to the original estimate of the cost. The House of Lords reported to the effect that they could not admit against the resources of Ireland the sum claimed by the Board of Works; and that the arterial drainage which had been so mismanaged should be executed according to the original plan, and at an expense not exceeding the original estimate. The Board of Works undertook to carry out the award of the House of Lords, but they did not do so; they merely skinned over the matter. Then in their Annual Report they stated that a sum of money which could not be recovered under their management had been forgiven by the people of England. But that was unfair and untrue. The 745 Irish counties had paid everything, and more than they ought to have paid. He did not see on what grounds the Board of Public Works was entitled to the confidence of the public or the people of Ireland. They had been employed also on certain lunatic asylums, and the manner in which they had executed the work had given ground for serious complaint. They ran up the expenditure to something close on the amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer derived from Ireland in the shape of income tax, and the asylums were badly built after all. Under all the circumstances, it was not unreasonable to ask the Government to consider this matter with a view to retrenchment.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that a more important question than the reduction of the Estimate was the charge preferred against the Treasury by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake), of having made false Returns to the House. If the printed statements of the Government were not to be trusted, by what were Members to be guided. He insisted it was the duty of the Government to dismiss from the public service those clerks with whom the faulty Returns originated.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he was extremely obliged to the hon. Members for Waterford (Mr. Blake) and Roscommon (Colonel French) for having set so good and novel an example in the way of economy as they had done, in asking for the reduction of an Irish Vote. But he was bound to say that the Board of Works in Ireland had most important duties to discharge; it had to look over a very large amount of expenditure of varied character throughout the country, and it consequently required a large establishment. No increase had been made in the charges for that establishment, beyond what length of service justified; and not to vote the salaries of the heads of the Department would be to put an end to the Board altogether, and render many Acts of Parliament, —which could only operate through the heads of the Board—entirely useless for the time being. He did not suppose his hon. Friend meant more by this Motion than to call the attention of the Government to what appeared to be an excessive expenditure. He would be glad to go through the details of the Vote with the hon. Member, and be thankful for 746 any suggestions offered by Irish Members. The head of the Board he knew to be a gentleman of considerable ability and discretion, certainty worthy of the confidence reposed in him: but it, of course, did not follow that a Board long established would not be the better for review. The remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon had reference to everything done in the House during the last thirty years, with regard to works in Ireland. The Board of Works could not be responsible for the things he complained of, because, in every case, it was but the instrument of the Government of the day.
§ COLONEL SYKES
observed that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) had not alluded to the erroneous Returns.
§ MR. AYRTON
stated that the Returns were framed on figures calculated from a certain basis: the hon. Member (Mr. Blake) made his calculations on another basis—hence the discrepancy.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he would gladly accept the offer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) to go over the accounts with him; and he believed he could show that a saving of £20,000 a year might be made. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would allow him, out of every £10,000 saved, £1,000 for the Irish sea fisheries. The Board cost the country 3s. 4d. for every 20s. it spent in public works—a state of things without parallel in England.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow,at Two of the clock.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.